Last month the blockbuster cholesterol drug Zocor went off-patent, ending an era for FCB HealthCare. For 14 years, the agency, which is part of Interpublic Group, had handled Merck's $4.4-billion brand—from “womb to tomb,” quips president and CEO Dana Maiman.
She and Tom Domanico, chairman, CEO and worldwide creative director, lament Zocor's passing as if it were a symbol of a time when exclusivity was measured in decades. “These drugs launched when the patent expiration was a different story,” Domanico says.
Before Zocor's sunset, FCB reinvented itself from being solely a big-brand shop centered on Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, to becoming a promoter of a diverse group of technical brands from Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). (The demise of another big account, Vioxx, got the ball rolling the year before.)
“People lost sight of the fact that we really are very high-science, as well,” Maiman says, noting accounts in oncology, HIV, immunology and other esoteric areas.
Personifying this change best was the work FCB landed on four orphan drugs: from BioMarin, Naglazyme for lysosomal storage disorder, and sapropterin for PKU deficiency; from Kos, Icatibant for hereditary angioedema; and from Centocor, NC503 for amyloidosis. “We've nicknamed ourselves the FCB orphanage,” Maiman says of the work.
Since some of its orphan drugs have a market of only about 250 people, FCB helps identify those populations through e-based initiatives and awareness-building.
“You're able to have zero competition for a prescribed number of years,” Maiman says. “We do think there's more of a renewed interest in orphan drugs.”
FCB also notched pre-launch business on larger brands, continuing its work for Boehringer Ingelheim (Flomax) and Pfizer (Spiriva). Roche handed it global promotion for anemia drug Cera this year. There was another global win from Merck KGaA and its US counterpart, EMD, for saritozan, designed to treat Parkinson's disease. FCB also expanded its relationship with BMS to include pre-launch work on the immunology-oncology agent ipilimumab. And Johnson & Johnson's Centocor tapped the agency for SNTO1275, a monoclonal antibody in phase III trials for psoriasis.
Organic growth came from Endo for the launch of the Opana pain product and with GSK for the launch of its topical anti-infective Altabax. Adding insult to injury was BMS' decision to pull the plug on Pargluva (muraglitazar), the erstwhile diabetes compound that some analysts rated a potential blockbuster. FCB was about to file materials with DDMAC when the letdown came. “It was very disappointing,” recalls Maiman of the decision. “No matter how many times it happens, you never get used to it, or expect it.”
Thankfully, the disappearance of Pargluva and Zocor did not result in staff cuts; agency head count actually grew by 14%. Less certain is how FCB will fare in the Draft FCB Group, the new entity created by the merger of IPG's consumer and direct shops.
Today, FCB has strong bonds with bellwethers like Merck, counting Cozaar, Fosamax and Propecia on its roster. But it continues to rewrite its reputation.
“We're constantly examining who we are,” adds Domanico. And that involves plotting corporate objectives globally. FCB opened offices in Hamburg and Paris, and its recent healthcare summit in New York drew representatives from nine other countries.